Quarterback TIM COUCH of the Cleveland Browns, defensive end MARCELLUS WILEY of the San Diego Chargers and linebacker LARRY IZZO of the New England Patriots are the AFC Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for games played the third week of the 2002 season (September 22-23), the NFL announced today.
The Player of the Week honors are career-firsts for all three players.
In his first start of the season this past Sunday in Tennessee, Couch led the Browns to a 31-28 overtime win by engineering two touchdown drives in the final 5:06 of regulation. The quarterback set career bests in completions (36) and attempts (50) and equaled a career-high in touchdown passes with three. His 326 passing yards was his second-best career performance en route to a 100.9 passer rating on the day.
"This is the way I've been trying to play all four years (of my NFL career)," said Couch, who missed the Browns' first two games with a forearm injury. "Probably somewhere in the third quarter, I felt like I shook the rust off a little bit. I found my rhythm in the second half and started getting the ball to these great wideouts we have."
Trailing Tennessee 28-14 with 5:06 remaining in regulation, Couch orchestrated an 11-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver ANDRE' DAVIS to cut the Titans' lead to 28-21. After a successful onside kick and with no time outs left, Couch directed a nine-play, 42-yard drive that resulted in an eight-yard scoring pass to wide receiver DENNIS NORTHCUTT to tie the game at 28-28 with 12 seconds remaining.
In the opening drive of overtime, Couch led the Browns on an eight-play, 65-yard drive and set up a 33-yard field goal by kicker PHIL DAWSON for Cleveland's first overtime victory since returning to the NFL in 1999. In the Browns' final three drives, Couch completed 16 of 20 passes (80.0 percent) for 148 yards and two touchdowns for a 130.8 passer rating.
Wiley contributed toward the Chargers' 21-13 victory over Arizona for a perfect 3-0 record. The six-year veteran from Columbia posted a sack, one pass defensed, and an interception of quarterback JAKE PLUMMER.
The 6-4, 275-pounder caught his second-career interception two plays after a missed Chargers field goal. Wiley shifted the momentum in San Diego's favor by returning the interception 40 yards before being tackled on the Cardinals' six yard-line. San Diego running back LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON scored two plays later on a four-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.
Wiley was an integral part of a San Diego defense that pressured Plummer with three sacks, forcing a pair of interceptions. San Diego's defense mustered three turnovers in the game and converted all of them into touchdowns.
The Chargers' defense as a whole is limiting opponents to 8.0 points and 206.0 yards per game – both NFL bests. Quarterbacks facing San Diego have a collective passer rating of 46.2, tied for the league lead with Carolina.
"We have a rule around here," said Wiley after the game. "We'll enjoy this until midnight. Then Cinderella takes her shoes off and we get ready for the next one."
The Chargers' "next one" is this Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Qualcomm Stadium.
Izzo recorded six special-teams tackles against Kansas City in a 41-38 overtime victory. Four of his tackles were of Kansas City kick returner DANTE HALL. Hall, the AFC's third-leading kickoff returner, is averaging 28.3 yards per return.
Izzo leads the Patriots in special-teams tackles with 10.
Other nominees for AFC Offensive Player of Week 3 were:
- New England quarterback TOM BRADY, who completed 39 of 54 attempts for 410 yards and four touchdowns for a 110.9 passer rating.
- New England wide receiver TROY BROWN, who caught a franchise-record 16 passes for 176 yards. Brown's performance tied for fourth-most catches in a game in league history.
- Denver quarterback BRIAN GRIESE, who posted a passer rating of 103.3 in a 28-23 victory over Buffalo. Griese helped Denver reach a 3-0 record with 19 completions on 31 attempts (61.2 pct.) for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
- Kansas City running back PRIEST HOLMES, who rushed for 180 yards on 30 carries (6.0) and two touchdowns. Holmes also caught five passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
- Denver rookie running back CLINTON PORTIS, who carried the ball 18 times for 103 yards (5.7) and a rushing touchdown. The effort was the rookie's first 100-yard rushing game.
- Denver wide receiver ROD SMITH, who had seven receptions for 94 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
- Houston rookie running back JONATHAN WELLS, who posted the Texans' best rushing day to date with 93 yards on 14 carries in a 23-3 loss to Indianapolis. Wells recorded a long run of 37 yards.
- Miami running back RICKY WILLIAMS, who had 24 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown in the Dolphins' 30-3 victory over the New York Jets. Williams' touchdown run was 53 yards, his career-long.
Other nominees for AFC Defensive Player of Week 3 were:
- San Diego linebacker DONNIE EDWARDS, who clinched the Chargers' victory with a fourth-quarter 20-yard interception return for a touchdown. Edwards also had two passes defensed.
- Kansas City defensive end ERIC HICKS, who recorded 2.0 sacks and five solo tackles.
- New England safety TEBUCKY JONES, who notched four tackles, half of a sack and recovered a fumble which led to a Patriots touchdown.
- Denver safety KENOY KENNEDY, who posted nine tackles.
- Denver defensive tackle CHESTER MC GLOCKTON, who recovered a fumble and returned it 24 yards for Denver's first points, and had two tackles.
- Miami defensive end JASON TAYLOR, who made four tackles, 1.0 sack, and forced and recovered a fumble.
Other nominees for AFC Special Teams Player of Week 3 were:
- Cleveland wide receiver-punt returner DENNIS NORTHCUTT, who returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown and recovered an onside kick with 2:41 in regulation to help the Browns force overtime against Tennessee.
- San Diego linebacker CARLOS POLK, who blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Polk's play earned the Chargers a two-possession lead, 16-7, en route to victory.
- New England kicker ADAM VINATIERI, who converted a 35-yard field goal in overtime for the win. The kick was Vinatieri's 13th career game-winner and 15th consecutive field goal without a miss.